Lyssan a Preview (A Young Lady’s guide to Treachery and Military Options)
The Introduction: The First day I saw Sam Brown’s new Kickstarter project Lyssan, I got the sense it was a precious gem wanting to gleam. The game had intriguing knight and noble pieces that acted like a rock, paper, scissors mechanic and the board shows of a glided map of a romantic fictional Europe. Of course I have no idea what the final product will look like ( I ended up playing on a canvas board with hexagonal Catan like pieces), but if the art that Sam keeps posting on his Kickstarter page is any indication that the final game will be a fine dainty indeed. The game takes place in a feudal society were Knights and Nobles rule the land claiming taxes for their projects while other pawns play a lesser role of spy’s stealing secrets and priest for changing allegiances. Did I say flavor text? The game is steeped with history and story with wide depth for a period piece. Before we start my young squire bring me some meat & mead, and light the fire for it is a long night ahead of us.
The Game play: The game begins with the placement of your starting pieces: Two Castles, Two Knights, Two Nobles, a spy, and a priest. Castle placement is important because all starting pieces originate at these buildings (include the priest and spy at the start of the game). Placement continues alternating turns until all pieces on the board. You also draw four influence cards because every young lady needs to alter the day’s events in her favor.
Influence cards added greatly to the game.. There are three different types of influence cards. The three types are:
- Surprises which happen and get discarded,
- Courtiers which are placed in front of you and grant reoccurring bonuses
- Vassal courtiers that grant you additional mercenaries.
The game round is built into actions that take place in each of the four seasons. Very reminiscent of other games like Mahjong that us the natural world to guide movement, and I imagined all the old paintings of medieval peasants working in the fields around the castle gathering the harvest.
Spring: You place out five of the different trophies (the game cones with 12). In preceding years one trophy will be over turned and then awarded in the following year with few exceptions (Some trophies can be awarded as soon as a requirement is met).
Summer: Is the season of the tax. Players gain all the resources of the land they currently control with Nobles, Castles and Knights. Players can also move, battle, and deal with shame in the warmer months of the year.
Autumn: Players take two influence cards in hand (We only tax in the summer), and have a secondary turn of movement, battle and dealing with shame.
Winter: While camps settle for the long hardship of winter the order of player is determined by choosing the player with least influence (&Debt) first and the player with the most Influence last.
Good: What makes this game exciting is the five ever changing objectives. While some influence cards allow you to see ever so briefly in the future (although some games have a flat potential if all the trophies with like objectives (who has the most nobles, who has the most Knights, who has the most spies. One way around this problem is to have the trophies come from different groupings.
Influence cards had a neat mechanic to put them into play in order to purchase them you had to discard the number of other influence cards for it card’s cost. For example a card with an influence of 3 meant in order to play it you had to discard three other cards.
The chess like interaction with the pieces on the board give the game depth. There were multi-level strategies between gathering resources, and setting up battles while protecting your property can become intense.
The artwork, the artwork, and the artwork! The artwork is top notch and captures medieval life well.
This one is very personal, but I really love games that draw upon cyclical elements in nature and love that this games round is broken down into the four seasons (although I would like to see some of the art address the different seasons, or maybe a different time keeper of peasants in all four seasons instead of the leaf)
Bad: This is a few of the things we would like to see changed.
The two player scenario didn’t work for us (puppet and master). Running two fractions was difficult at best, and both of us lost our plans for each faction while dealing with the task of the secondary one. Also we felt the Puppet &Master scenario didn’t seem fair (or a little contrived) if you could lose a game because you had the hidden puppet card under your leading fraction.
There was a strong possibility of a run-away leader in this game. Since a player moves and attacks all at once, the first player of a turn could easily deal a mortal blow to the other player’s ability to gather resources. This meant in the second year a player could easily shut down his opponent’s armies and his ability to regrow them. Taxation seemed to be farer if it happened before all player movement.
Also we were hoping that there was some kind of mechanism or levy to slow a duke down that was dominating the game. This could be addressed with the size of the map and the early placement to slow things down and let people build up defenses. If the map became too big there could be terrain to aid and hinder movement. I also wonder if there were some trophies that could be given for less somehow to keep the game fair.
Being the first player has a great advantage. I can’t even imagine in a four person game if the first three fractions all attacked the forth. It would be devastating for the player to even start the game.
Some Influence cards had looping effects that allow them to be placed back in hand (friends in low places & Favors). That seemed too powerful to only have a few cards like that. I also wanted to see some kind of defense against influence cards. Otherwise you were always at the mercy of the latest card played, and you kind of felt that it would be more interesting if somehow you might have the potential to block an aggressive move made against you.
We wanted named mercenaries or other dukedoms to come to aid as the additional pieces granted from Vassal Courtiers, and not as it is currently labeled by color: the orange knights, or the black nights. Also it was too confusing and too many like pieces to try and divide camps into Orange Priest/Orange Nobles and Orange Spies/Orange Priests. This could be a little confusing with lots of pieces on the board.
In its current state wording on the text and rules use multiple words to mean the same thing: (Conscript/Recruits, Trophies/Triumphs). This was a little confusing at first and consistency would help the rule book greatly.
Conclusion: I am really excited to the see the end result of this game. I love to see some of the new thinking this game incorporates into its mechanics. A little more honing and time this game could easily be a shining star in a gamer’s collection.